UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM CANDIDATES
By Beyza Binnur Donmez and Sena Guler
ANKARA (AA) - Istanbul’s top two mayoral candidates on Sunday sat down for a televised debate a week ahead of a re-run of polls in the Turkish megalopolis, home to some 16 million people.
The debate between People's Alliance candidate Binali Yildirim and Nation Alliance candidate Ekrem Imamoglu at Istanbul’s Lutfi Kirdar Congress Center started under the moderation of veteran journalist and TV presenter Ismail Kucukkaya.
On why the Istanbul race went to a re-vote, Yildirim stressed that the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s choice was to count all the invalid votes, not hold a new election, but the opposition party failed to cooperate.
"If my vote was tallied for the CHP [opposition Republican People’s Party] or another candidate, this was theft. There’s no explanation for this," he added.
He added that if the CHP had not resisted the vote recount, the election would not have to be repeated and the public would not be confused.
For his part, Imamoglu rejected the charge of theft, asking who had stolen the March 31 election, in which he was briefly named mayor before Turkey’s election authority overturned the results over irregularities and illegalities.
"Are your [Yildirim’s] words for AK Party polling officials, for the Good (IYI) Party, for the MHP’s [Nationalist Movement Party] or the CHP’s?” he asked, referring to major parties that competed on March 31. “Or for the heads of balloting committees?" he added.
Imamoglu characterized the Istanbul re-vote as part of the fight for democracy, "not just a local election."
Speaking on Imamoglu’s attempt to copy data from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality during his brief tenure in office, Yildirim said:
"This copying data work is a FETO [Fetullah Terror Organization] tactic. FETO did it in its history,” referring to the group behind the defeated 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Yildirim stressed that three experts from outside the municipality were also appointed for the process of copying the data.
"This is a disastrous thing in itself," he added.
In response, Imamoglu said a mayor could do any work or examination regarding his city government.
He also said the process posed no security risk.
Yildirim and Imamoglu are vying for the Istanbul mayor’s seat again after the Supreme Election Council (YSK) ordered a re-run of the March 31 Istanbul polls.
The results of the vote were canceled after the ruling AK Party and Nationalist Movement Party appealed to the council, citing irregularities and violations of election law.
*More details to follow